‘I no longer speak to my mom. Every day, I wonder about her. I look in the mirror and see her staring back. But I have to choose me over her.’

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“I am sitting in my house in Austin, Texas, waiting for severe storms to roll in. But there’s a storm of sorts brewing inside my body because of what I am about to write. It’s not easy to sit here and open this door. It’s been closed for years. But lately I have been thinking about her. Wondering about her. Trying to decide if I should reach out and risk the consequences of her in my life again, or play it safe where I know she can’t destroy me any longer. It wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t always a risk thinking about calling her or taking her call, but tonight as this storm rolls in, I am ready to let mine out.

I can’t remember when it started. I can’t remember exactly when the darkness came into our lives. I am one of six kids. The third born and the oldest girl. Living in a suburb of Boston, we were not born into a family where love was given freely. Where hugs were handed out just because we walked into a room. We were born into a family full of toxins, demons, and vices.

My dad, carrying years of family abuse from his youth, turned to alcohol and gambling to forge and survive. My mother was born to biological parents who could not care for her, gave her life-long abandonment issues, and handed down depression and bipolar disorder, which she’s passed on to some of her kids. We were born into messes we were forced to clean up as we grew and got older.

Courtesy of Kelly Smith

As kids, we had no idea anything was wrong. We were used to the yelling, fighting, and surviving. I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t have adult problems. I remember it all, from the constant fear of the electricity being turned off all the way to my dad missing for days because he was courting his vices at the race track. No, we were not given a fair chance at life, but we did the best we could with what we had. I can, however, remember a few good times.

I can remember my mom’s laughter. Her smile and her baking skills. I can remember her beauty, intelligence, and her drive to fight for her kids. Birthday cakes and caramels were creations she worked on and we enjoyed. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and clean laundry were a regular occurrence for us. Back when I was about to start kindergarten, I remember my mom taking me to the store to pick out my lunch box. She walked with me down the aisle. With my red hair, freckles, and tiny features, I grabbed the Strawberry Shortcake lunch box. I was so excited to go to school and use it. I remember her picking out a brown dress with a white shirt for my first day. And that’s what I wore. I am not exactly sure when it happened. But the darkness arrived.

Over time, slowly, she began to change. She was more angry. Short. She stopped cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. She yelled at us more and told us if it were not for us kids she would have a happy life. She would disappear into her room for what seemed like days and we had no idea what to do. She took a lot of anger out on my dad. As kids we didn’t understand much, but I hated how she talked to him. She would insult him, put him down, and try to make him look stupid in front of us. As he ate she would make fun of the way he sat. She always asked him to get her something from the store and when he got back with something different she yelled at him and threw things at him.

When I was in sixth grade, I asked her what I should get the boy I liked for Christmas, and she told me, ‘You never do anything nice for a boy. You make them do nice things for you.’ As the years moved along, I had no idea that the way she was treating my dad was teaching me how to treat men.

Courtesy of Kelly Smith

Her and I never really got along. I have no idea why exactly. I told her one day that I felt as if she never liked me since October 4, 1976. Her response? She looked at me with piercing eyes and said, ‘Not that exact date.’

I always felt bad for her. I hated seeing her so sad so often. I would do my best to try to make her feel good by making her a card or giving her a stuffed animal or a fun balloon. One afternoon, I was getting home from my first job to change for my second job and when I walked into my bedroom, my mom had ripped up all the things I had given her and put them on my bed. I was crushed. I scooped it all up and threw it out. I went to work that day and when I got home I handed her my check as I usually did and said nothing to her.

As a young girl, I needed help with hair and makeup. I wanted to talk about boys. I stood outside her room asking her for help and she told me to ask my friends and slammed the door on me. When I got pregnant at 17, she asked me, ‘How could you do this to me?’ She put me down and told me I was an embarrassment to the family. Instead of the hug I needed, and still need, I was told she was going to make me wear an engagement ring because of her humiliation.

When I gave birth to my son nine months later, she left me alone and scared in the delivery room because she couldn’t handle it. We never had a true mother-daughter relationship. She taught me to beg for love because naturally I was not good enough to receive it. When I tried to talk to her about how I felt, she told me she had six kids and there was not enough love for all of them.

Courtesy of Kelly Smith

I was forced to see how she interacted with my younger sister and I could not figure out why they got along and I was left in the dark shadows, confused and wondering if I ever deserved to be loved by her. Wondering what I could do or how I could be better so she would hug me the way she hugged my sister. The more she pushed me away, the more I tried with her. I called her, let her into my secrets that were later thrown in my face. Advice was met with insults and how I was messing up my life.

Living with a narcissistic mother was never easy. It was painful and confusing. It lead me to chase love outside of my home and in relationships. Not just romantic relationships, friendships as well. When I met my now ex-husband, I was 16 and desperate for love and attention. When he pressured me for sex, I was afraid I was going to lose him, so I gave in (which is how I became a teen mom). We stayed together, eventually marrying, but the years of abuse he endured from me because of the way I was taught to love turned into a divorce years later.

During that relationship, I begged him to love me and chased attention. Being so young, I could not see he was not a good fit for me, so I stayed and chased love in the way I was taught to. The more he ran from me, the more abusive I became. When that relationship ended, I jumped into another relationship too soon before healing. Once again I was begging and chasing love. But this time, I was the one being abused. I stayed in that relationship too long because I was trying to convince him to love me. I stayed because he was treating me the way I treated my ex-husband and I felt I deserved it. Eventually that relationship ended after I found myself in the middle of a love triangle which turned into a wreck tangle and I knew it was over.

In the aftermath of all of this, I found a recovery program that saved my life. It was in that recovery program that I discovered I was co-dependent, angry, controlling, and even a narcissist myself. Gifts from my parents. I learned my mom was a narcissist and that it wasn’t my fault she was unable to show me love. It wasn’t my fault she had her own traumas she needed to heal from. It just wasn’t my fault.

Courtesy of Kelly Smith

During recovery, I healed from the mess. I am now breaking the cycle of domestic violence toward the men in my life. I saw who I was and the damage I caused to my ex-husband and I had to come to terms with the fact that I was showing my three sons what an abusive woman looks like. That I was mimicking my mother’s behavior. I had to face myself and choose everyday to change and be a better woman and I do to this day.

I no longer speak to my mother. Choosing to no longer speak to her is something I still battle with everyday when I look in the mirror and see her looking back at me. When I type with her hands, or put socks on her feet, I am reminded every day that I have never felt the love of a mom and that hurts. Mother’s Day hurts. It always destroys me all over again. When I have good news and I can’t call her, it hurts.

I choose to not have her in my life because of the damage that was done. I choose this each day and it is not an easy choice. But I know if I open the door for her, the things that will follow her in will destroy me and all the progress I have made. I have to choose me over her. I have to choose my kids over her. I have to choose my mental health over her and I do. Every day. I hurt and I am sad, but I also know I am better off.

Courtesy of Kelly Smith

If you have a mom you can call and talk to, or share your life with, you will not understand this. People question me about this decision and look down on me, but I stand tall knowing I have to choose me. I know the consequences of this choice. I am fully aware that one day I will get a call saying she’s no longer here and I am fully aware that will be one of the worst days of my life, but I have already had to mourn the loss of a mom who is living. This is not an easy choice, but after years, I have learned that I deserve to live a happy life and my kids deserve to have a happy mom. No it’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

You do not have to have a toxic person in your life just because you share DNA. You deserve to live freely and you do not owe anyone an explanation for the choices you have made in your life.”

Courtesy of Kelly Smith

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelly Smith of Austin, Texas. You can follow her journey on her website here, and Instagram and Twitter. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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